Sunday, 31 January 2010

It's just like riding a bike!

Today was an exciting day, I decided that before I torture myself lusting after my dream bike, I should really check that I was capable of riding a bike with drop bars. Which is something I've not done since my early teens when I was the proud owner of a sparkly pink Raleigh Racer.

So after a fettle around with Mullerton's "Jake the Snake", to make him more friendly for a shorter rider, we were ready for the off.

I was suddenly petrified. What if I couldn't do it? What if I made a complete fool of myself on the busy main road out of the village? Oh 'eck! I was about to ride a bike one size too big for me. What if I needed to stop suddenly, my fingers couldn't quite stretch enough to pull the brake levers. Argh! I barely had any standover, so any accidents could have been sore! I was suddenly full of dread. Would this be the end of my Yeti Dream?

I pleaded with Mullerton to ride my MTB so if necessary, or if I bottled it, that we wouldn't be stuck and have to walk home. Eek! I had already sowed the seeds of doubt that I wasn't gonna be able to do it. Why couldn't I just have the confidence in myself? After all it was only a bike and I know that I can balance whilst turning the pedals round.

It was then time to do it. Mikey had kindly ridden "Jake" up the hill out of the village so that I could have a flat road to start with. There was a local dog walker a few feet further down the road, so I didn't really have time to worry about what I was doing, as I didn't want to look like a complete pleb in front of him, so I just hopped on and started to pedal.

Weeeeeeee! I was off! I took to it like a duck to water! Why had I worried so much? It was just like riding a bike!

Now all I need is a couple of pounds to get the Yeti frame and some kindly-component-donations from my lovely generous friends to get my dream alive. ;-)

Saturday, 30 January 2010

A girl can dream.

As most of you know by now, I would really love a Yeti Cross Bike. It is my dream bike! They just look so ace and shiney and I have set my heart on owning one. They are bikes with a soul and as I don’t like soul-less bikes it seems like the perfect option. Some may say that, this statement may seem a little odd coming from a girl who owns a Specialized, but before you judge me, the Globe was the only bike that ticked all the right boxes without having to buy loadsa extras at an additional cost. I wanted a nice commuting hybrid with all the necessities – lights, mud-guards, kickstand, etc and the deal clincher was the fact that it doesn’t advertise the fact that it’s a Specialized. Which BTW is great as most “Scroats” and “Scallies” know about Spesh and aren’t that opposed to knocking slower riders, like myself, off of them and nicking them. It was perfect for when we lived in Stretford - as it meant I could ride to boho Chorlton for our organic veg or a Shandy at our fave pub.

The only thing is that, since my re-found love for cycling, I feel like I have in some ways out-grown him. I still need a utility bike for commuting or to pop up the hill to the local farm shop or even into town. But I desperately need a speedier lighter bike now, so I can continue to improve and achieve a higher mileage. (Not forgetting, I need a bike that I can use for my first ever Cross race.)

So, as I said before, the Yeti ARC X would be my ideal bike. It has a soul, looks great and would make me feel like a Princess. But the only downside is the price (even at trade). Am I being silly wanting a bike of that quality when I could get a half decent, mass produced model that would meet my needs at a more reasonable price? Mullerton says I should get an “off the rack” bike for now - One that I won’t form any attachments to, so that in a year if I am in a better paid job and still riding I can fulfil my Yeti dream.

The thing is can I do it? I don’t want to! I can’t bring myself to get an adequate (but in my eyes soul-less) bike. I have my standards – as ridiculous as they are for someone with my abilities. It’s not about me being vain either. I don’t want it to make me look good (a bike, no matter how pretty, can’t perform miracles). I just want it to feel good - I want the perfect bike for a perfect ride.

Unfortunately, it is an unrealistic dream, so for now I am in limbo. For now, my trusty Globe will have to continue to be my road bike. *Sigh!* That is unless anyone can give me any ideas for a new bike that wont cost the earth but still has some soul? (Either that or help me through my judgementalism for Mass produced bikes...!) ;-)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Mountain Bike Mudbath

Today, I planned to do my first bit of off-road riding since Christmas day. I was really looking forward to it. I only had a couple of miles left to meet my weekly target so I knew that I could achieve this easily and have some off-road fun at the same time.

I was excited as I knew the mud would be deep. The sun was out when I woke and I was itching to get out before it hid behind the clouds, but annoyingly Mullerton was having a lie-in. I waited impatiently before banging and clattering around the house to wake him. ;-) Yay! He was soon up and we were eating our porridge, but then to my dismay he told me that none of his MTB's were in working order. Something to do with siezed pistons. Grrr... after an hour of him fettling in the garage (and me obsessing over the blue skies, looking for any sign of grey clouds), he decided to just remove the front brake off his "Spot" altogether. I was concerned about his safety but the desire to ride, over-rode any of my concerns. We arranged to meet my Mum and eagerly set off. This was gonna be ace.

I wasn't wrong... it was better than ace. The conditions were perfect (blue skies and no wind). The singletrack was fun (deep mud and even deeper puddles). Even better still, I was surprised to find that my overall fitness had dramatically improved since the last time I rode this route. I nailed it! Despite the sucky mud, my feet were dancing on the pedals. I skipped around the singletrack as if riding on a cloud - floating over obstacles and managing to stay upright. My legs amazed me - there was no pain or fatigue! Although, saying that, I am the first to admit that there was numerous pitstops - mainly to check my mum was still with us and not face down in the mud!

I was on fire, zipping down the loose rocky tracks that used to scare me. I was full of adrenaline and enjoying every moment. This is what I have always loved about mountain biking! I think through my concentration to increase my stamina and agility through all the road riding during these winter months I had completely forgotten how much fun biking is. I just can't wait to get out there and do more - C'mon Spring!

I just can't express the rush it has given me. It wasn't just the great ride though; it has also given me an extra confidence in my abilities and new strength. More importantly it has reminded me why I've spent so many tedious miles on the turbo and the occasional monotony of riding laps around the village.

It felt wonderful out there and it has left me with such a great natural high. (LOL, if I hadn't spent the last 30mins bloggin' about it, poor Mikey would have to endure more of my constant ramblings about how much fun I had and how awesome I was.)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Two great rides and one gallant horse!

After 2 weeks of being unable to get outside on my bike, due to unbearable weather conditions, the sun finally decided to come out and the clouds and wind disappeared. So on Sunday, we decided to take advantage of the glorious weather and went for a ride.

After a few miles, I suddenly realised that cycling suddenly seemed to have become easy. I wasn’t at all uncomfortable or tired. I also noticed that my pedalling style was more fluid. It appeared to be the start of a significant transformation… from novice to … errr something a bit better. ;-) I’m not sure what has changed. I think it’s probably because I had fresh legs as hadn’t been on the bike for a few days. I guess it will also have something to do with the recent mundane “turbo” sessions. (This incidentally, has become significantly difficult recently; the more I have had to endure on it, the harder and slower it has become - I’ve been finding it difficult to keep my legs spinning to achieve my targets.)

By Sunday though, I only had 5miles to do to meet my weekly target, so there was no pressure to ride hard and I knew I could just enjoy being back outside. It was a great ride. My average speed had increased and as I said my legs were feeling great. We did 6 “easy” local miles (which is a few laps around the village) and then headed off to do a few more miles at a harder gradient. I got back home in high spirits with 10½ miles under my belt and a renewed determination.

So when Wednesday rolled around (Mullerton’s day off) and the weather was again fine, I was eager to get back out. Despite Mullerton having tired legs from his earlier ride with some of the VeloCake bunch, I dragged him out! We did a similar route to Sunday and again I loved it. It was nearly faultless – with the exception of the tough climb past a school which was surrounded by imbeciles. Despite it being an hour after school-closing it was bedlam. There were badly parked cars blocking the already narrow road, children and parents milling in the middle of the road, gloating about little “PeggyMays” gold star! There were car doors being thrown open causing even more hazards. Grrrrr…. Intriguingly though, I managed to climb that nasty hill in one go, despite never managing before – LOL - my temper does have its advantages!

(If only everyone could use this type of transport for the school run!)

Thankfully, after that ordeal, a local horse lifted my mood with his comical antics. The horse, who we regularly pass during rides, never fails to make me smile as it often “Whinnys” as we ride by. Due to its constant greetings, I affectionately named it Winnie and was delighted when a few months ago it responded when I called out “Hello Winnie” - by turning, looking straight at me and “Neighing.” We have since discovered though that Winnie is actually a male so he is now Winston – which probably accounts for his verbal outburst when I called him Winnie! ;-)

Anyway, I am rambling and making what should be short anecdote, very long. So yesterday during the ride we noticed that the first two time we passed him, Winston had his eyes firmly fixed on something over the hedge from his field! He was mesmerized by whatever was over there and uncharacteristically didn’t even turn to watch us ride by. I called “hello” but nothing – he was transfixed. We presumed that the grass was greener or something and continued on our merry way. It wasn’t until we were heading back and passing Winston for the final time that we caught a glimpse of what he was being drawn to. There it was - another horse in the neighbouring field! I giggled and joking called out “have you got yourself a girlfriend?” I was unprepared for his response…. I kid you not it a very gruff James Brown tone he gave a comical “Brraaaay” that told us in no uncertain terms that “Yes, this Philly is mine!” I nearly crashed my bike due to hysterical laughing…. Winston sure is one smooth stud!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

In the bleak mid winter - Cornish Chaos

Apologies for my 1st post that isn’t really bike related – I have nothing of interest to say on the cycling front! So the only thing to talk about is the weather! I went to the hairdressers yesterday, so I am quite up-to-date on weather matters. ;-)

As I have said before the Cornish weather is generally milder than the rest of the UK and snow here is extremely rare. We had a slight flurry last year, which comically stopped the county in its tracks, so when much heavier snowy white stuff arrived last week pandemonium ensued. Most "locals" have never seen anything like this and unfortunately, the “it’ll never happen in Cornwall” attitude has left many really disconnected with the British climate. So when it happened there was absolute chaos!

(photo by Mullerton)

The county just isn't equipped for extreme weather conditions. The council are obviously unprepared – the grit supply is pretty much non-existent, the gritter trucks were nowhere to be seen and even when they did appear they only cleared the main roads - which, in such a rural county, doesn't really help the locals who are stranded in small villages and hamlets. *Sigh* ... If only we lived eslewhere in Europe, where the farmers and other locals help out by keeping the local minor roads clear. Basically the whole community ends up shut down, as many roads are impassable and most of the population do not know how to drive in snowy conditions anyway. To add to the choas, people irrationally start buying food essentials as if the world is in fear of a nuclear attack.

More irritatingly, the kids here have never seen snow before so they take great pleasure in the novelty of throwing snowballs. Not too bad, but they insist on throwing them at windows, seemingly unaware that glass will actually break. Even more irritatingly, the little yobs congregate and on-mass pelt anyone that passes by (on foot, on bike or in car) with large ice-balls from very close range; not realising the potential dangers as their victim is already dealing with treacherous conditions. Good god, and how dare anyone raise their voice to reprimand "little Johnny" and warn them of the dangers as the victim loses balance and slips towards a passing car…. It was “only a snowball, mister!” Little idiots! Bring back corporal punishment!

(No offense is meant to this innocent primate by comparing it to an idiotic human child)

The bad weather meant a couple of extra days off for Mullerton (as I said, the whole of the county stops in bad weather) but unfortunately healthcare workers don’t have that luxury. For some reason people who cancel appointments with their doctors - because they can’t get to the surgery, then expect the community healthcare staff to be able to get to them? Do we all fly in choppers or something? Dim-wits! At one point, I half expected to be doing my rounds on foot, or even by bicycle. Ahhh, what a charming image, a throwback to when community nursing staff rode between patients. Unfortunately, I had far too much stuff to carry and too many sharps to feel safe riding, so the bike was ruled out. :-( Was a shame really, as I felt the need to get out and ride. (I have spent the last few weeks completing my weekly mileage on the trainer…. I need some fresh air!)

OK thats my rant over. ROFL! I feel like one of those grumpy old women that used to shout at me when I was little for running down the alley laughing too loudly! Have I become less tolerant as I've grown older… or am I expecting too much from the Cornish, who are supposed to be notoriously laid back! Ahhh well, the snow has gone and the ice seems to be thawing. Hopefully normality will resume soon and I will be able to get back outside on my bike and drain some of this negative energy.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The perils of online shopping.

Sometimes I hate internet shopping. When it's good it is good, but when it's bad is horrid. I will maybe have to rethink my tendency to shop online. Things are never what you expect. And clothes shopping can be particularly unpredictable anyway.

This week, I ordered a variety of stuff from a variety of reputable online shops, to spend some Christmas money. The first item, hand delivered by a friendly postie, (a lovely Endura merino Baabaa) arrived without incident and was great. It was a snugger fit than I would normally wear but as it is designed to be an active fit base layer for cycling. I was overall very happy with the service and with my purchase.

The next order wasn't quite as simple. It arrived yesterday but was incidentally ordered a day before the BaaBaa. A pair of ¾ length baggies. I had ordered my usual size, despite knowing that I had lost a little weight, but as I wanted them to be baggies and because I know that cycling clothes are usually cut smaller, I thought I’d stick with my usual size. Ooops! They were far too big! Yeah, I know I shouldn’t grumble about being a size smaller than I thought, but I can’t be meithered with all the effort of returning them. Ah well, least I don’t need them immediately, as it will be a long while until it is shorts weather outside, so returning them shouldn’t be too bad. After all, I only got them now because they were in the sale.

Unfortunately, we then move on to the next item (which arrived along with the “baggies”). I had ordered a pair of full length fleecy tights. I was excited - since the winter weather has drawn in I have been pretty damn cold out on my bike and a pair of Roubaix tights was what the doctor ordered to keep my calves nice and toasty. Woopee! I was chuffed to bits and really looking forward to wearing them for todays planned ride. Unfortunately, this morning when putting them on, I suddenly became very disappointed.

When they first arrived I had suspected that they weren’t “properly” brand new - the packaging and lack of product labels suggested that they have been previously tried and returned. I was a tad disappointed but convinced myself that you can’t always expect that someone hasn’t tried them before you. Things worsened though when trying them on this morning, I discovered that the condition of the product itself was more than poor - there was a blinkin’ hole in the material (located under the waistband) and the logo was peeling off the leg. I was mortified. I had been so looking forward to a warm ride. In fact I was beyond mortified I was livid. The weather was beyond miserable and I couldn’t possibly go outside in my ¾ tights! My excitement had disintegrated and been replaced with a raging temper. (We didn’t ride!)

Anyway a letter of complaint has been sent, I have demanded that they pay for the cost of my return to exchange them. I suspect though, that as they were a discontinued sale item that they will be unable to offer me a like-for-like exchange, so as a last resort, I have suggested that they may offer me a dramatic reduction in price to reflect upon the poor condition if I were to keep them. (I will keep you posted and I will be naming and shaming on here if I don’t get a good service.)

Grr... maybe it would be easier to brave the male orientated world of bike shops, even though the girls department is always poor so the stuff would have to be especially ordered in anyway.

Friday, 1 January 2010

The story so far - a brief round up of 2009.

To quickly recap, this blog is about my rediscovery of a love for bicycles. As most of you have read; over ten years ago, I used to ride, but for a variety of reasons I stopped! (I could bore you with the exact day that I stopped riding, but it really would make dull reading.) Since then, the lack of exercise resulted in a deterioration of my lungs/asthma and an unsurprising weight gain. Realistically, you could say that rather than it being a “rediscovery” of bikes, it has been more like starting from scratch.
Anyway, my initial target has been to complete at least 100miles a month and the winter months are no exception. In fact, mileage-wise, December has been a good month, despite the miserable riding conditions. Unfortunately, the awful weather at the start of the month, dictated a number of tedious sessions on the "turbo" and after a couple of very painful and unpleasant “real” rides in the middle of the month I was ready to give up... I was so disillusioned by it all, firstly by the monotony of the trainer and then because the severe weather was affecting my capabilities/lungs so I was struggling to maintain speeds and distances that had previously started to become easier. I was broken, but somehow, through sheer stubbornness – I continued to go out on rides taking advantage of Michael’s days off – forcing him to endure a ride with “Slow Poke Katie.”

Thankfully, I don’t know if it was because the weather became less harsh as the ocean winds had eased, but things started to look up again. The feelings that I had at the beginning of the month returned and I once again started to feel like a real cyclist, rather than just someone who rides a bike and my tenacity seemed to be paying off. By Boxing Day I had meet my monthly target – but I didn’t stop there, the rides continued and by the end of December I was 43 miles over target.

The last few rides have been great fun and we have enjoyed the eerily quiet local lanes and muddy bridleways. We have also done rides that have taken me out of my comfort zone; going further a field instead of sticking within a few mile radius of home. I have also had the confidence to attempt the hills that in the past I have been daunted by (for fear that I may not be able to climb them). Even more amazing still, I have enjoyed a few rides down scarily narrow national speed limits lanes that are treacherous in a car, never mind on a bicycle.

So, to round up the last few months of my rediscovery, I am happy to report that I have pretty much achieved my targets so far. There has only been one month (September) out of the 5 months since I started that I didn’t meet my target, due to a very nasty sore (that kept me off the saddle for 2 weeks) but amazingly, I made up the miles in the following months.

Basically, in the last 5 months I have achieved over 500miles, which I think is quite impressive, as its likely that I haven’t riden even a fifth of that in the last 10 years.

Here’s a roundup of my mileage to date.
Dec 2009 - 143miles
Nov 2009 - 115.05miles
Oct 2009 - 120.55miles
Sep 2009 - 63.30miles
Aug 2009 - 101.10miles

Anyway, the fact that I have achieved so much in a considerably short amount of time gives me hope that I can continue improving and it is looking more likely that I will achieve my main goal to participate in a Cyclo-Cross race next year.

This morning, I have also decided that another target for me to aim for in the next few months, is to do a 26 mile ride. Yeah I know it’s not a huge figure for the seasoned athlete, who thinks nothing of riding 100miles, but for me it is a marathon! ;-)